by John Lawrence
Two Middle Eastern locations hit 129 degrees F, the hottest temperatures ever recorded in earth's history. The temperature in Mitribah, Kuwait, surged Thursday, July 21 to a blistering 129.2 degrees (54 Celsius). And on Friday in Basra, Iraq, the mercury soared to 129.0 degrees (53.9 Celsius). At the same time a heat dome in the US sent temperatures soaring to over 100º in much of the country. A study published in the journal Nature Climate Change last October cautioned that by the end of the century temperatures may become too hot for human survival due to climate change.
Last year was the hottest year ever globally — or it was until 2016 got off to a sweltering start. NASA announced that the first six months of this year have been the hottest since 1880, which is when people started keeping reliable records. In June 2016 the average earth temperature was 1.62 degrees hotter than the average June temperature for the 20th century.
The Arctic has seen sky high temperatures this year with the result of record low sea ice levels. The Alaskan town of Deadhorse just 50 miles from the Arctic coast set a record temperature of 85º F.
Farmers Losing Their Farms Due to Heat
Excessive heat is contributing to more heat related deaths as well as farmers losing their farms. One year after India experienced the fifth-deadliest heat wave ever recorded, temperatures were again soaring to deadly extremes. Local governments are scrambling to address rising death tolls and dwindling water supplies.
The drought and blistering heat, some 20 to 30 degrees Fahrenheit above normal, have made it impossible for farmers to tend their crops. Towns on India’s eastern side have been hit with record-setting temperatures — 119.3 degrees in the town of Titlagarh, Orissa, which is the highest temperature ever recorded in that state during April.
India’s subsistence farmers are incredibly vulnerable to the heat. They’re faced with a dire choice: stay inside and let the crops go to waste or work the land and risk heat stroke. Abandoning the choice altogether, thousands of farmers have migrated to cities in search of jobs often leaving elderly and young relatives behind in parched villages.
Here at home the Santa Clarita Sand fire filled the skies of Los Angeles with smoke and ash, destroyed at least 18 structures and consumed an area equal to 10,000 football fields a day. It forced the evacuation of 20,000 people and sent nearly 770 animals to shelters.
A separate fire in the Big Sur area, on the central coast, had spread to nearly 15,000 acres by Monday, July 26. Up to 1,650 structures were threatened.
2016 Will Be Hottest Year on Record
2016 is on track to becoming the hottest year on record surpassing even 2015 which has been the hottest recorded so far. The record temperatures are mostly the result of the excessive heat that has built up in the earth's atmosphere due to accumulating greenhouse gasses. That heat is raising sea levels and causing more extreme weather events.
Every month this year has set a record for high temperatures. According to both NASA and NOAA, several months this year have already recorded temperatures 1º C above average. All six months of the year so far have exceeded that benchmark when compared to preindustrial temperatures. There have been an unprecedented record breaking 14 record hot consecutive months.
The year-to-date record temperatures are 1.89º F or 1.06º C above the 20th century average according to NOAA. According to NASA, they are 1.96º F or 1.09º C above the 1951-1980 average. Of the 15 warmest years on record, 14 of them have occurred in the 21st century.
At the Paris summit on climate change held in December 2015, it was agreed upon by the nations of earth that they would set a goal of limiting global warming to less than 2 degrees Celsius compared to pre-industrial levels. It was also decided that the parties would also "pursue efforts to" limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C. According to NASA and NOAA average earth temperatures are already at 2.4º F (1.34º C) above average. And this only seven months after the COP21 conference!
It was estimated by some scientists that the 1.5°C goal would require zero emissions sometime between 2030 and 2050. We are already practically at the 1.5º C limit and are nowhere near zero emissions. The 2030 time limit to achieve zero emissions is still 14 years away! Meanwhile, we will probably surge past the 1.5º C goal in a year or two. The nations have hardly gotten started on their efforts to limit climate change and we will probably blast through the 2º C goal in a few years.
COP 21 Conference Could Turn Out to be Exercise in Futility
The nations of the earth can agree all they want to limit greenhouse gasses. If they were to reach their goals, all burning of fossil fuels would have to be terminated immediately. That will never happen so the COP21 conference will turn out to be an exercise in futility, and earth's temperatures will continue to rise which will lead to more record temperatures well above 127º F.
Deadly heat is forecast in the Persian Gulf by 2100 according to a study in the journal, Nature Climate Change. Areas of the Persian Gulf could be hit by waves of heat and humidity so severe that simply being outside for several hours could threaten human life. Because of climate change, some population centers in the Middle East are likely to experience temperature levels that are intolerable to humans.
The monthly numbers from NASA and NOAA put the planet on track to surpass 2015 as the hottest year on record. "2016 has really blown that out of the water," Gavin Schmidt, director of Goddard's Institute for Space Studies, said.